Phuket is a glorious wonderland of white sand beaches, night time shopping, and tattoo parlours galore. The average backpacker tends to stay in Patong or the Koh Phi Phi islands, however I decided to stay in the often overlooked Phuket Town. This town, at first glance doesn’t seem to have much, but if you like to wander, as I do, you will very quickly find a heap to do here.
Things to do in Phuket Town
Phuket town is filled with Chinese temples on every corner, amazing graffiti and murals hidden on the walls of the picturesque buildings in Old Town. Old Town itself is lined with picturesque Portugese style houses in vibrant and pastel colours, and makes for a very instagram-able area. On Sunday nights the old town is transformed into a walking street market from around 4pm-10pm on Thalang Road where you can buy cheap and tasty foods, clothing, and watch the extremely talented youth of Thailand Perform and create artwork in front of you. If you’ve not yet had your fill of markets, there is also the weekend market, known as Naka Market, which rivals the massive Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok (see my Bangkok so far article). Here you’ll find just about anything you can think of, from second hand name brand clothing, to food stalls, tattoo shops, souvenirs and many many more, with low prices that can be bartered down. (Bear in mind that most places will offer you a discount when buying multiple items, rather than single items). I also found this great bar called Library bar, which featured books suspended from the ceiling and along the walls.
I’d also recommend checking out the Trickeye museum in Phuket town, a museum which features huge paintings which you can take part in, and look as though you are a part of the setting for some wacky photos. This however, is definitely a place to go to with a friend or another traveller as you’ll need help to take the photos, but worry not solo travellers, if you haven’t managed to make a friend yet, the staff are more than happy to follow you around the museum, taking pictures for you.
Although there’s not a beach in Phuket town, they’re very easily accessible from the town centre. You can get down to Patong Beach which is known as the partying area of the Island using either one of the beach buses (I will explain later), or via a an air conditioned minibus (the preferred method) for 50 baht (£1.20) which drops you off in Patong centre, and from there it is only a 15 minute walk. Here the beaches are beautiful, with clear water and a variety of watersports available (be warned, they do try to overcharge tourists for certain activities, you shouldn’t be paying more than 1300 baht (around £30) for jet ski rental or watersports, and even then. There are souvenir shops galore, and tattoo shops offering machine and Bamboo tattoos line the streets, with plenty of bars and restaurants in the area too you won’t have to go too far when you get peckish. The food and drinks in this area are a bit more expensive than further inland, but this is expected in more touristy places, and still cheap by UK and US standards.
You can also head to the downtown market, where along the street are many blue beach buses with the destinations written on their sides to take you to all the beaches across the Island. The best beaches to head to which aren’t quite as crowded, but still easy to get to and good amenities is Kata Noi beach. I found this beach incredibly safe as well as I was able to leave my stuff on the sand and go for a swim multiple times and never had to worry about my belongings being taken. However I will say that although my trip to Kata Noi was simple and satisfying for my beach cravings, getting back was the tricky part. There is no bus stop or timetable for the buses en route back to Phuket town. Instead you have to head back up the the main road where you were dropped off and wait until you see the bus and flag it down. If you’re lucky, you’ll see one within 5 minutes and can get on and enjoy the wind blowing through your hair on the open backed bus. However, if you have my luck, you might be sitting there for 40 minutes in the sweltering heat before you finally manage to catch one. This is the same from all of the beaches, so just be sure to put on plenty of sunscreen, and work on your patience skills.
Whilst staying in Phuket, at the Vitamin Sea Hostel which I have to say, is an absolutely amazing place, with a great atmosphere, and calm in comparison to my wild nights in Bangkok, I met a fellow backpacker who got me to do something I never would have thought I would have done. This guy is the founder of a company called TrashPackers and he travels the world, recruiting people to help him to clean up overly polluted beaches. I’ll be very candid and say that when I first heard him talking about spending the evening picking up trash, I tried to get out of that room really quickly without being noticed, but to no avail. He eventually managed to rope me in by offering to buy us all dinner, and well when foods involved, I’m involved! I ended up really enjoying it once we got there, and made some friends with local beach dogs while picking up the ridiculous amounts of trash thrown on the beaches by visitors. We managed to clean up half of the beach and collected a whopping 34 bags of rubbish. The beach looked so much better when we were done, and it definitely gives you a sense of fulfilment when you’ve finished (that, and the free food too). Check out Trashpackers on Facebook and Instagram to see how you can help the environment on your travels too.
Phuket is also an amazing place to take advantage of their excursions, so I would definitely recommend doing so! My next article will outline the excursions that I went on, which involved visiting the Koh Phi Phi Islands, meeting and feeding monkeys, white water rafting, elephants, waterfalls and meeting amazing people. New article to come shortly. Signing off for now, CHB xx